Legal Framework of the Abortion Debate in the Light of the Strasbourg Case Law

The paper deals with the Strasbourg case law on various aspects of the abortion debate. The article discusses eight cases heard by the European Commission on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Five of them refer to reglamentation of anti-abortion speech, while the other three cases refer to infringement of freedom of expression in the context of a pro-choice campaign. Based on the decisions of the ECHR and judgments of the ECtHR it is impossible to reconstruct a clear framework for the conduct of public discourse on abortion. Strasbourg case law on the subject is incoherent and inconsistent. The European Court of Human Rights applies the doctrine of margin of appreciation in a selective and largely unpredictable way. Verification of the proportionality requirement – within the meaning of Art. 10 § 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – in cases involving restrictions on freedom of expression is permeated by wide judicial discretion. One gets the impression that the ECHR with varying degrees of rigor and accuracy, or even using a double standard, decides cases of pro- and anti-abortion speech reglamentation. The paradigm according to which freedom of speech includes speech that „offends, shocks or disturbs” does not appear to be applicable to the activity of the pro-life community, a tendency evidenced by questionable judgments in Van Den Dungen and Hoffer und Annen cases.

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